By Edward Kopko
CEO & Publisher
Some of the world’s biggest sports leagues – the NBA, Australian Football League, Major League Baseball and Premier League – have been around for many years. Yet one new sport has done something these well-loved leagues never accomplished. Drone Racing League (DRL) has gone from 0 to 100 million views in only two years! Amazing as that feat is, it is also available for broadcast view in 87 countries. DRL has done this by introducing a new combination of real world racing with virtual piloting that creates an experience unmatched by other sport’s leagues. The rise has been meteoric and is catching millennials in droves. Every generation has a special connection to sports so what is it about drone racing that gets people from around the world so excited?
The race is a combination of high speed, high technology and requires flawless precision. The first-person-view (FPV) technology helps the pilot maneuver just like he or she is actually inside the drone. So unlike older remote controlled planes and cars (RCs), what DRL offers is the excitement of being a virtual pilot; the feeling of being inside the drone.
According to Nicholas Horbaczewski, the CEO and Founder of Drone League Racing, “There’s people all over the world who build drones, meet up in parking lots, and race them competitively. And the idea behind the drone racing league is to take that to professionalized sport and to bring it to a mainstream audience.”
Horbaczewski, who founded DRL in 2015, received an AB from Oxford University, and has an AB and MBA from Harvard Business School. He was also SVP for Revenue Business Development at Tough Mudder (toughmudder.com), and the Founder of Leeden Media.
The continuous innovation of drones has piqued the interest of a new breed of gamers, youth and innovators as well as spectators who are drawn to the thrilling game. People simply find drones cool and instinctively know they will have a big role in the future.
Some may have speculated in the past that drones would eventually invade the sports scene, but the establishment of DRL as the first professional sports league for drone racing in the world tells us that it already has made a significant mark in the sports arena.
The next Drone Racing League Championship is set to take place in Saudi Arabia in September this year, which could be viewed through their top broadcast partners such as Fox Sports, Sky Sports, ESPN, OSN, Disney XD, and ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE.
How Does DRL Work?
Drones that are used in the league can fly at a maximum speed of over 80 miles per hour. The league is the first professional race series that uses First-Person-View drone racing. Players control the drone by looking at a video feed that goes through different neon-lit race courses.
The speed, the rush, the popularity has gained DRL the reputation of being the next Formula 1. Its similarities with the popular single-seat car-racing event are simply astounding. The big difference is that DRL takes place in the physical and virtual realms. Real drones can crash and be destroyed yet the pilots are uninjured and operate their drones from a VR headset.
Drone racing is deemed as one of the most exhilarating sports with the combination of the physical aspects of the real world and the virtual dimensions of the game. The DRL reminds all participants though that drone races come with risks that need to be managed. Just like any other sport, drone racing also follow safety protocols (The DRL Safety Protocols) and the three key principles include planning – how spectators, the staff and pilots interact with each other; procedure – ensuring the right processes are in place; and production – managing the crowd.
Preparations and Tryouts for the DRL
Players who want to enter the competition will have to join the tryouts using the DRL Simulator, a top of the line drone flying simulator. It gives aspiring pilots the chance to know and get the feel of what it’s like playing and flying a real UAV.
Ryan Gury, the Director of Product at the Drone Racing League, explains, “If you play Grand Theft Auto or Forza, you can’t really get from that game into a Formula One car and drive it proficiently. DRL Simulator is actually the thing where, because it uses two sticks, you can come from this and fly an actual racing drone.”
The tryouts are open to different countries. This means that drone pilots around the world have the chance to enter the league once they pass the preparations stage.
The DRL is shaping the society in such a way that enthusiasts and spectators from different parts of the world—across age and gender–come together, and share a whole new experience. It is after all a combination of sports, entertainment and technology.
The professional drone racing league was established in 2015. Its first season was launched in January 2016, where the races took place at five venues across the United States. Bud Light and Toy State are two companies from different industries that made the first investments to DRL.
Season Two of the Drone Racing League was presented in June 2017, where the competition was broadcasted in 80 countries, making a social and cultural impact for a lot of sports fans.
Just like in all sports, drone racing also has its list of superstars. Jordan JET Temkin, popularly known as just JET in the drone racing world, is the defending world champion. He is described as “someone who possesses a unique blend of highly consistent flying and careful racing strategy.” Other star pilots in the league are Wild Willy and Gab 707.
Because of its continuous success, DRL recently received additional $20-million investments from companies like Allianz, WWE, Liberty Media, and Formula One.
Other sponsors of the DRL are ESPN, Sky Sports, Disney XD, The Grand Tour, Nikko Air, RSE Ventures, Forto, U.S. Air Force, Drone Racing MultiGP, LUX, Fat Shark, CRCM, Sky, Courtside Ventures, and HEARST.
While only 2 years old, DRL is destined to have new breakthroughs and growth. A growth that many other professional sports leagues will be watching closely.
In Bold Business’ next drone story, find out how the drone technology positively affects the next generation of pilots.